Kim Jong Un touring a wheat field at Farm No. 1116 under the supervision of the Korean People's Army Unit 810 in June. Kim’s visit to food-growing areas and factories have more than doubled in the past year, and food has become an urgent priority in North Korea. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap
SEOUL, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- North Korea distributed a ton of potatoes to each farm laborer prior to its 70th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, but the year's worth of food supply has angered recipients, according to sources.
One source speaking to South Korean news outlet Daily NK on the condition of anonymity said on Monday, "As the country entered into celebrations for the Workers' Party 70th Anniversary, every resident of Yanggang Province was provided with the potatoes. The amount given to each family depended upon the age and number of family members, but the average came out to about one ton."
The source said a year's worth of food was provided in a single allotment and was sourced from the province. Residents of Taehong, Samjiyeon and Baekam counties were disappointed the rations had not increased from previous years. Ordinary North Koreans felt they were not being sufficiently compensated for "year-round back breaking labor."
Potatoes are not a popular food in North Korea, according to Daily NK's sources, because the edible tuber isn't compatible with other Korean dishes, like kimchi, and North Koreans associate the food with malnutrition.
"Just hearing the word 'potato' is enough to set off a wave of disgust in the region. Most folks badly want to find ways to get rice," one source said.
The potatoes, however, are of such a poor quality, according to the source, a family would have to trade in 22 pounds of potatoes for just 2.2 pounds of rice. Some North Koreans, eager to trade their potato surplus, travel as far as the coastal areas to exchange potatoes for a smaller amount of seaweed.
Food has become an urgent priority for North Korea.
South Korean news network YTN reported on Tuesday North Korea's state-controlled newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported a surge in the number of Kim Jong Un visits to food-growing areas and production facilities.
Using data journalism tools, YTN found Kim's visit to food factories more than doubled in the past year, and North Korean articles mentioned the word "corn" more often than Kim's name.
North Korea suffered a severe drought this season that has led to food shortages in the country.